Full text of "Argus"
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northwestern state university
To every student who submitted your work to Argus this year, thank you. We
sincerely appreciate your participation and interest, whether your name appears
in this book or not. You make it difficult to determine which pieces to include,
and for that we are grateful. Only with your talent and contributions can we
provide Northwestern with a wonderful literary magazine.
Everyone that encouraged someone to submit something to Argus for consid-
eration, we are forever in your debt. You are the ones who keep Argus going
year to year.
Thank you to each of the following: all of this year's judges, for your time and
consideration, despite deadlines no one liked; Mr. Gary Hardamon, for lending
your talent to capture the art for reproduction on the pages of the magazine;
those that have been faithful friends of Argus for years, such as the faculty of
the Fine and Graphic Arts Department, we are grateful for your continued as-
sistance. To every professor that began this semester with a tired and stressed-
out staff member in one of your classes, thank you for your understanding and
We are especially grateful to Dr. Lisa Abney, Language and Communication De-
partment Head and Dean of the Liberal Arts College, for her constant support
and motivation. The world may never know how you do everything you do and
still always have a smile, an encouraging endearment, and a hug for anyone
who needs them. Dr. Sarah McFarland and Ms. Bobbie Jackson, a "thank you"
for each time you unlocked the office door or helped to solve a logistical glitch
we may never know about; we tried to keep track, but we can't count that high.
To Dr. Julie Kane, a special thank you for your guidance and support to yet an-
other Argus staff and for each problem that you solved along the way. We can
only imagine the highs and lows, stress and smiles, that accompany working
with such an independent staff. Know that we could not have done it without
you; you truly are the unsung hero of this magazine. Thanks for bearing with us
through the times we had you worried and the pleasant surprises.
2009 Argus Staff
Every year the staff of Argus faces a new set of challenges, and looks at them
from the vantage point of an additional year of successes. Each editor looks
to see what has been done before for guidelines and makes it up as he or she
goes when new situations come along. I hope I'm the only editor to ever face
redesigning fall's work in January because the bids came back too high to print
the magazine. If years from now another editor in that position reads this, know
that it can be done - but don't expect much sleep.
Unfortunately, we can't wait to know just what that year holds in store before
selecting a theme and beginning the processes of submission selection and
layout design. Thus, all we had to work with for the year when the time came
for Larrie to get started with design ideas were a couple of hurricane scares
and the bumpy start to the fall semester caused by those storms. Walking the
halls of Kyser and listening to conversations taking place I heard something
that resounded within the works submitted to Argus last year, and that I could
expect to see again this year: students reflecting on things turning out differ-
ent. Things different in either a good way or a bad way; nonetheless, reality not
lining up with hopes and expectations and leaving a void for conversation to
fill. I wasn't sure how to capture this feeling that seemed to bind students in a
common, though somewhat depressing, mood. How do we say in a positive
way that art is often born out of artists' fears as well as hopes, disappointments
as well as triumphs? Actually, I don't even remember how I explained to Larrie
what I thought we needed to work with as he began sample covers and con-
cepts for the inside design. When we met to look things over, however, Larrie
had captured in a serious of images what I had struggled to put into words. As
he described the image you see on the cover of this book he kept saying, "it's
shattered. I don't know how to explain it but . . . 'shattered.'" Like the image,
the title stuck.
As you read through this edition of Argus, "Shattered," I hope that you come to
understand two things. The first is that you are not alone in the feeling of "shat-
teredness" that we all go through at some point in life. Secondly, as cliche as it
sounds, beauty can come from brokenness; may you see that what has been
shattered can be put back together again. Enter into this conversation with
your friends and classmates and allow them to either share your pain or lift your
RS. On a less universal, and much more personal, note: there are some people
I would like to recognize. Dr. Kane - I meant what I said on the "Acknowledg-
ments" page. Actually, I tried to put everything I wanted to say in there because
I assumed many people would never read this far into my note. Larrie - I can
never thank you enough for taking this on yet another year. You've taught me a
lot throughout this process and always eagerly dealt with each new challenge
I passed your way. The energy and talent you have brought to the staff each
year is amazing. Although we hardly ever saw you, I knew I could count on you
and that you'd have something great to share each time you appeared. Katie
B - thanks for jumping in when you had no idea what working on Argus, much
less acting as assistant editor, would hold in store. Keisha, Erin, Kelli, and Tim
- thanks so much for your continued support and dealing with the last minute
meetings and pushed back deadlines that made things tighter for us. Savanna
- you may never read this, but it was you last year that first introduced me to
Argus. Thanks so much; it's been quite the experience. Last, but certainly not
least, Andi - it's been great to know that you are only a phone call, text mes-
sage, or Facebook message away. You encouraged me to apply for editor last
spring and that encouragement has never faltered throughout this year. I guess
three weeks in a foreign country does seal a friendship. Gracias, mi amiga.
Dr. Lisa Abney
Dr. Lisa Abney is Dean of the Liberal Arts College and Head of the Language
and Communication Department. She is also an English professor, teaching
courses in linguistics and folklore. Dr. Abney loves the opportunities she gets to
work with students, both in the classroom and as a problem solver.
Dr. Gary Bodie
Dr. Gary Bodie enjoys teaching Medieval literature, including Beowulf, Chaucer,
and Arthurian legend. He also teaches technical composition, focusing on legal
and criminal justice topics. His primary research interests include studying the
oral/literate nexus and the uses of modern computer technology in the study of
Dr. Rocky Colavito
J. Rocky Colavito is a professor of English and Director of University Writing
programs at Butler University.
Lori LeBlanc earned her Master's degree in English with an emphasis in South-
ern Culture and Folklore at NSU and is now an instructor at NSU's College of
Nursing in Shreveport. She views her students as brilliant potentialities and
delights in seeing their successes.
Dr. William Broussard
William Broussard, Ph.D. is an Associate Director of Athletics and Assistant
Professor of Journalism and Public Relations at NSU. He is an avid writer and
enjoys epistle writing, poetry, short fiction and creative non-fiction.
Roxie James received her Master's Degree in English Literature from North-
western State University. She is now an adjunct professor in the Language and
Victoria Krista Jenkins
A graduate of NSU, Krista Jenkins is currently an Instructor of English in the De-
partment of Language and Communication. In addition to teaching and men-
toring students, Krista enjoys spending time with her three children and working
on her own creative writing projects.
Dr. Sarah McFarland
Dr. Sarah E. McFarland. believes, like Wordsworth does, that "poetry is the
spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion
recollected in tranquility." She teaches American and environmental literatures
This year's judges were all NSU Art faculty. Michael Yankowski teaches
photography and design and has been at NSU for 22 years. Brooks Def-ee
teaches painting, drawing, and photography and has been a faculty member
for over 10 years. Matt DeFord has been a sculpture and ceramics teacher
at NSU for 5 years and Isaac Powell is in his 3rd year teaching art founda-
tions and drawing. All of the judges are practicing artists and exhibit their work
1 st Place
Yearbook by Jeff McAlpin
Boo-Hoo by Kimberly Cascio
Your Face by Adam Viator
A Mockingbird Finds Shelter For The Evening by Thomas Parrie
Craft Project by Tessa Brannon
1 st Place
Barry Trumble by Andrew Shirley
Like A Blister In The Sun by Kimberly Cascio
Basilone by Randall Frederick
Shade by Andrew Shirley
Camping With Ghosts by Adam Viator
1 st Place
Triumph of Set by Amber Lee
Within it All by Amanda Roe
Innocence by Amanda Crane
Her Pleasures the Sparks by Amber Lee
Where Do I Fit In The Plan? by Amanda Roe
An Unusual Infatuation
Dunn's Day At The Bakery
A Mockingbird Finds
Shelter For The Evening
The Sky And 1
A Whistle In The Fog
Camping With Ghosts
A Lot Like Watching
A Car Crash
1 Would Run Miles
RoKKA/ TVl i m I^I/-n
The Wheel Of The Year
River Of Change
The Waiting Ones
Her Pleasures The Sparks
Where Do 1 Fit In The Plan?
Triumph Of Set
Within It All
Jellyfish And Single Neuron
Like A Blister In The Sun
Voices Of The Past
Scenes From A Sidewalk Cafe
The Gnome Is No More,
He Has Ceased To Be
The Little Girl In The 1 1 th Grade
Thorns Have Roses
A Ghostly Maiden
Hello Old Lover
In The Window
Winds Of The Past
Just a few weeks ago,
this meteor landed in the empty
woods behind my house.
It was glowing green and yellow, like
a burning star with a sinus infection.
And there it was, right in my backyard!
I touched the rock, my hand
tingled and a cold chill ran up my arm, it was
just a slight
blue power shock.
This was the origin of
my new superpowers:
I can make anyone I touch
out of all the superpowers,
what kind of superpower is that?
It comes in handy, though.
You would be surprised how easy it is
to rob banks with the tellers in tears.
I like your face
I mean I really
Like your face
I like your face like I like my favorite things
String Cheese Sunflower Seeds
Jelly Bellies Vegetables Grilled Cheese Lasagna
Sometimes I run experiments on your face, rearranging your nose
I put it on your cheek, still beautiful
I put it on your forehead, still beautiful
I put it on your chin, still beautiful
I put it on your other cheek, still beautiful
You scrunch your face, wrinkle your nose, grimace your mouth.
You don't like it when I move your nose
You complain, "put it back"
I oblige Your nose goes back to where it originally was, still beautiful
(even though you've now got a normie nose)
I like your face like I like cliches:
[poetic imagery here]
I like your face when your lips purse for a kiss
I like your face when your mouth contorts into a smile
Big Granny told me
She can turn around on a dime
And give me 9c change.
She also told me
That "beauty is skin deep
But ugly is to the bone."
One time she told me
"Many men rock a baby long
Not knowing that he's not rocking his own.
Big Granny told grandma
Grandma told my mama
And my mama
Shocked me and told me...
She brought me
In this world
And she can take me out!
What was wrong with her?!
Then, years later...
I told my kids
What my mama told me.
It wasn't until then
That I understood.
A McxWngbrd Finds
Shelter Fa The Evening
One winter night, while walking home, I noticed
A mockingbird huddled against a building ledge.
The wind wrapped itself around her grey overcoat.
She tucked her head tighter into her wings as the
Night thickened with cold. I walked on moving
Away from her nest. She didn't notice
Me pass as a wind whipped my face and I shuddered.
The lightless lines of a borderless breeze,
The fluttering of feathers flinging the air,
I wish I was there—
To tuck my head in her grey-black hair.
Th0 Sky/lnd !
The sky's electric
I feel electric
The sky and I
I think we're getting
My thoughts are getting
The rain falls with me
My mind is rushed
The thunder moans
There's a kin spirit
And I feel
Like a child
My tears descend
Into the ever enduring street
Gravity doesn't know the rain
From my tears
The sky and I
We get along fine
The sky knows
I can't be held
By anything but
The sky and I
We are electric
I think we are falling
"Take only pictures and leave only footprints" was the mantra repeated ad
nauseam in the wilderness of North Carolina. This seven-word summary is
the most efficient way to describe the Wilderness Act of 1964. It was imple-
mented "to establish a National Wilderness Preservation System for the per-
manent good of the whole people" and, almost as an afterthought, "for other
purposes." It instituted a place "untrammeled by man" where "the imprint of
man's work [is] substantially unnoticeable." It is a place where you can sally
forth, remove yourself from society, and live a harmonious existence off the land
only after you investigate the laundry list of rules and regulations guarding the
wilderness. Then, when you have sufficiently educated yourself into the proper
etiquette of visiting nature, you can apply for the permit necessary to enter the
wilderness. The rules are simple: walk in single file along the numerous man-
made trails without deviating from its established course; camp only in desig-
nated camping areas or on rocky or gravelly surfaces when available; leave all
rocks, plants or otherwise natural objects undisturbed; don't kill the animals;
avoid camp fires; and, above all, take nothing out that you did not bring in and
take everything out that you brought in. And please, do try try try to avoid the
very popular attractions as increasing foot traffic has severely impacted the
pristine untouched quality of the backwoods wilderness.
I was ready; it was time to venture into the great unknown. Time to cast
aside worldly concerns and enjoy the beauty and serenity of nature. Time to
snub material comforts and the rapid capitalistic inhumanity of society. Time
to reject the vanity and narcissism of materialism. Time to gear up! So, there I
stood staring vacantly at a wall of North Face internal frame backpacks of vary-
ing shapes, sizes and prices knowing nothing of their benefits or detriments. An
employee sidled over wearing a $70 Columbia Sportswear waterproof shirt that
I coveted, but I only had $100 to spend and I needed a backpack. He drew my
attention to the North Face Badlands 60 (the cheapest pack they had in stock).
Although it was the only pack in my price range, the name is what attracted
me. The name is what gave me a sense of security. This pack was made for
the untamed lands that man is not supposed to visit. This pack, by the very
essence of its name, was a shield. No matter how bad the lands got, the Bad-
lands could handle it. No harm could befall me while wearing this pack.
'Til take it," I said.
The salesman looked pleased with himself and said, "now, you know, it's
not waterproof so you'll have to get a rain cover."
I took my brand new pack to a summer camp where I was set to coun-
sel and was promptly assigned my first overnight trip. We were to begin our
three-day outing by catching the Art Loeb trail at Camp Daniel Boone and hike
over to the pine forest on the other side of Black Balsam for the third day: ap-
proximately 30 miles in all. Of course it was raining — it is always raining in the
mountains — but I was ready. Rain gear on, the Badlands filled with a change of
clothes, Maglite flashlight, writing journal, Catch-22, REI Firefly camp stove, a
North Face 30-degree mummy bag, a Thermorast ground pad, a Sierra Nevada
one-man tent, two unbreakable Nalgene bottles filled with water, a Camelback
hydration system also filled with water, water purification tablets, maps and
compass, pots and pans, enough food to last the duration of our hike, enough
garbage bags to waterproof all my gear and carry out any trash we might ac-
cumulate, and with the accumulated knowledge of five hiker's guides worth of
"no trace camping" pointers and the official rules and regulations of the wilder-
ness. We stood on the brink of the wilderness, ready to thrust ourselves onto
the 30.1 mile Art Loeb trail without a moment's hesitation, ready to feel the soft,
leafy floor of the Shining Rock Wilderness under our heavy rubber and leather
boots. The wall of trees towered over and intimidated us. We ventured along
the thick wall until we came to a break: the trailhead for the Art Loeb path.
Naturally, there were steps.
Shining Rock is the main attraction of the Shining Rock Wilderness in
western North Carolina. The summit is white quartz that juts out of the forest
at an elevation of 5,940 feet. The quartz outcrop is one of the most popular
attractions of the Pisgah National Forest. We started our three day outing from
the foothills of the Shining Rock Wilderness area with the steepest climb along
the Art Loeb trail. Our plan was to reach Shining Rock in the early evening and
have dinner, spend the next morning exploring locally and try to reach Black
Balsam the next evening. We had 15 miles to go, all straight up it seemed. Five
minutes after our departure from Camp Daniel Boone I was ready to call it quits.
The rain and tree cover did nothing to reduce the heat. The lactic acid in
my legs was building up and causing them to burn. We were going straight
up and the terrain showed no signs of leveling off. I cinched my pack and my
gut spilled over the canvas waistband. I was fat, out of shape and, worse yet,
covered from head to toe with the rotting leaf litter and filthy dirt of nature. The
others, adolescent men with lean, slender bodies (track stars, most likely, at
their high schools) marched ahead, deriding my slowness. I ran headlong into
my first dangerous impasse in the wilderness. I could either gasp, undo my
restricting belt and fall into a heap of wasted organic matter on the wilderness
floor (and ostensibly roll to my doom down a wooded stairway of death) or
suck in my gut, puff out my chest and establish my alpha male dominance. I
could already feel the wilderness affecting me, and them. Their wild, angry eyes
burned into me, their muscular legs twitched, ready to speed off up the moun-
tain like a cheetah across the Serengeti. I straightened, my long hair and beard
twisted with dirt and twigs and protruding every which way in an unruly mane,
"The group moves as fast as its slowest member," I said, channeling a far
off memory of some ineffectual cliche spat out in a destructive swath of spit
and curses from the mouth of a high school football coach, "I'm just trying to
keep a pace that we are all comfortable with." I hiked off, paying no attention to
their exasperated objections. We moved on and, one by one as the miles wore
on, they overtook me until they were nothing more than distant voices carried
by the waterlogged breeze. All alone, I stripped off the rain gear and heavy
water soaked t-shirt and ambled on. Unashamed of my body, I moved like a
machine: a slow, crawling, unstoppable machine. I overtook the group resting
in a muddy clearing just before a narrow, rocky ridge. This was the wilderness
and resting was a sign of weakness (and I may be slow, but not weak). I seized
my opportunity to tip the scales of the battle of wits I had been waging in the
wilderness. Wet, muddy and half naked I scorned them: "Why the fuck are you
guys resting?" I moved on without hesitation, ignoring the other counselor's
reprimand about cursing in front of the campers because, after all, this is the
wilderness and there are no rules.
You stained me,
left your mark
like crayon scribbles
on the paper
of my soul.
to cut out
the parts you had marked
and glue sticks
to make a mosaic
of what was left.
I had no idea
that my soul
was so colorful.
The darkness of the world seemed almost absolute that evening. The only
spots of light that dared pierce the night were cast from the streetlamps that
lined the cobbled streets. Three friends walked this night, reveling in their
inebriation. They were laughing at jokes that would only provoke an eye-roll
from anyone outside of their little group. Their isolation from the world was so
complete that they did not even notice as a thick white fog began to roll in from
almost every direction.
It was the sound that first brought them out of their reverie. It sounded
almost like whistling. Faint at first, then it grew, an eerie, tuneless sound that
seemed to carry a weight all its own. A nervous chuckle fell from the lips of one
member of the group, looking round to see that through the thick fog they had
lost their bearings. Paranoia began to set in and they quickened their steps,
until one of their group began to slow. They turned to call to him to tell him to
hurry, that the creepy whistling was getting closer. That was when they noticed
The blood that trickled from their companion's ear, rolling down the sides
of his hairless head. They took an alarmed step toward their comrade, sud-
denly feeling very sobered. He fell to the ground convulsing, the shadows barely
concealing the bulging veins that lined his face. Then they saw it. They saw the
silhouette, that form that lay beyond the fog, heard the whistle that rebounded
in their ears.
All thoughts of their friend left their minds.
They had no idea just how long they had been running when they felt their
legs could take them no farther. They looked at each other with panic-stricken
eyes, wordlessly mouthing their disbelief and shock. If they had been looking
anywhere else, they might have noticed the small shapes that were skittering
along the ground toward them, out of the fog that was ever at their heels.
The taller of the two was taken first. The creatures were already ascending
his left leg before he even noticed their presence. They moved with an unnatu-
ral speed as they crawled up his pants leg and under the silk shirt that he'd
spent more on than he could afford. They did not crawl higher than his shirt.
The other watched as his friend clutched at his torso, the darkness obscur-
ing the agony on his face. His body lurched and his eyes bulged. The sound of
his screams turned to a sickening gurgle as tiny legs began bursting from his
The last of the three had fled in terror long before.
Who knows how long he ran before his trembling legs collapsed beneath
him; he grabbed for a lamppost to steady himself. His trembling hands could
not support him as he slipped to the ground to vomit. His head was reeling
and all the world seemed to be spinning. His thoughts and his vision blurred.
He gripped his skull to stop the turning, trying to steady his frantic nerves. The
world spun and spun, and when the earth finally stood still, he was staring into
the eyes of a nightmare.
There were no screams, no more running. He could only stare into these
dead eyes, those hollow sockets as he looked into the source of terror. He
opened his mouth to breathe, but it was as if all the air was stolen away. An icy
sweat ran down his body, making slippery his grip on the lamppost that now
cast no illumination. He could only stare at the darkness, which opened its
The horrible creature's jaw went slack as the impenetrable shadow within
began to draw breath. The source of the whistling was then revealed, as the
creature filled its shriveled lungs with its black breath.
For a moment, time stood still.
Then the beast let loose its silent, terrible howl.
The papers would say that three young men were found dead in the street,
without a mark on them. With no other apparent cause of death, baffled police-
men ruled it as a case of alcohol poisoning.
There was no hint of the evil that truly happened that night, of the darkness
that came to call upon that small city.
And when the fog rolled in the following night, there was no warning against
the eerie whistling, nor the terror that would surely follow.
Die for someone other than yourself;
Don't make them suffer,
Make them remember.
Force the perverted truth down their throats
And then give them your life to do with what they please.
We have nothing but our hearts and time,
And neither of them will last long enough to be enjoyed.
You need not fear because you are immortal,
Because you are real... because you are felt by every
Moment in time and every soul that ever dared to live outside of themselves,
Not for themselves... but for those they would never know.
Only dream of...
We are all together
No matter how many times I hurt you...
You will return again without fail.
You will make yourself better
Because no one told you you would.
Because no one knew you would.
Because no one believed you would.
And even after it all...
You will cry.
And I will cry...
Because I will know then that you are true.
Because I will know then that you are safe, that
No one can ever take anything from you
Because you have nothing left to give.
You have given it all
To someone that will never know you
And in return they will do the same.
They will love you and never know your name...
A brilliant light! As bright as God shone through
My window, melting the frost as if the glass
Were crying. The cold faded fast and
Soon my window was bleeding.
I held out my fingers and it was warm.
Can phg Vvlth Ghosts
There were three of us then, intrepid campers casting aside the cozy comforts
of our parents' homes for the uncertainties of the wild. Nearly a hundred yards
from my home, obscured by fences and trees and the pseudo-hills of the Mis-
sissippi River's ancient flood plain, we captured one of the many measures of
freedom twelve-year-olds living in the country can experience. By day we were
explorers, venturing for miles upon miles away from home, investigating the far-
reaching tree lines of the Jeanerette cane fields and paddling our pirogues until
our arms grew tired. At night we camped.
Along the Bayou Teche we pitched our tent. Close enough to the dan-
gers the muddy waters held and close enough to the comforts and securities of
home, we spent the cool autumn evenings nestled between the small block of
houses known as Sandager and the old single lane bridge my father still used
for his work.
Sitting around a dying fire, constructed mainly of gasoline and rem-
nants of banana and oak trees, we passed between us a harsh, hastily made
corn whisky procured through some inscrutable means. We roasted marsh-
mallows and spoke of such lewd and uncivilized topics that pre-teenagers are
prone to and, as a result, we either lived vicariously through our older brothers
or flat-out lied. Eventually, according tothe rules of campfire discourse, the
conversation turned spooky.
"Yeah I saw her, you can see rer from my house," said Mike who lived
in the neighborhood behind my house "she swings all night long."
I looked to John for confirmaton. He was the older, if not stupider, of
the group, but was always reliable forthe truth if only unwittingly. "It's true. You
can only see her when the moon is out."
"You haven't seen her?" MiM the cajoler incredulously asked. He had
an uncanny ability to mold any situatbn to his personal advantage and cruelty
was his preferred method. "Oh come on, you've lived here your whole life and
never seen her?" It was true that I hadn't seen her; I have visited her grave on
many occasions and have frequented the swing on many more but the vision
of her specter eluded me still. "I car't believe you haven't seen her," he said
dismissively. Angry at Mike's tone, Igave myself a task: I was going to see the
ghost of the swinging girl. "Watch (Lit for her mother," reminded Mike.
The conditions set forth by my companions for the successful viewing
of the ghost were there, albeit not ideal. The moon was out, but only intermit-
tently; the cloud layer that was present obscured it for most of the evening. The
air was cold and wet with the first hints of fog rolling off the bayou.
The grave of Evelin Thompson rested on the opposite side of the
bayou from where we camped about a half a mile down. She died in 1884,
the victim of, according to legend, some unspeakable act of cruelty on behalf
of her mother. Buried on the grounds of what was previously Hope Plantation,
Evelin is cursed to spend eternity waiting patiently for her mother to find her.
Her mother, as punishment for her crime (the murder of her daughter in ill-con-
ceived revenge against her philandering husband), is cursed to wander the
twisting shores of the Bayou Teche in tearful search of her child, killing any man
who comes between her and her child in her eternal search for redemption. Ev-
elin, like any good child, passes away the time patiently swinging on the swing
that accompanies her grave. One thing was certain: if I were to see the specter
of Evelin Thompson her mother wouldn't be far away.
Three routes presented themselves to me from the campsite. The first
option involves a fence that runs the latter part of the neighborhood down to
the bayou. On the shore is a small gate completely covered in overgrowth from
a tree that stands in the water. After a lengthy battle with the branches it would
be a dark walk through several backyards to an empty, wooded lot that would
provide the best vantage point. Or, I could venture back toward the house and
enter the neighborhood and finish my voyage to the wooded lot through nicely
lit neighborhood streets. The third option was crossing the bayou in my pirogue
and venturing through the cane field on the side of the bayou that Evelin's grave
is on. This option struck me as particularly foolish as the other two provided me
with a nice watery buffer zone from the spirits of Evelin and her mother (who,
for all intents and purposes, I wanted to avoid). Approaching too near my house
(and risking incurring the quizzical interference of my parents) seemed equally
as foolish to my twelve-year-old mind. My mind was set, I would seek the spirit
of Evelin Thompson by following the uncertain terrain of the bayou.
I set off a little past midnight, delirious with processed sugars and corn
whisky, certain my glimpse of Evelin would allow my admittance to an exclu-
sive club previously closed to me. I found a measure of relief in the knowledge
that I was not required to search out the weeping woman herself as to do so
would certainly end in my demise. Also, I was quite confident that neither of
my companions had seen the mother and, if I was careful and attentive to any
weeping sounds, and stealthy enough not to be spotted, I could glimpse her
from across the bayou and gain an advantage over Mike and John. To see one
of them would fulfill my immediate needs, but to see both (provided I remained
unobserved) would provide me with ammunition in future battles with Mike.
I arrived at my destination and implemented my voyeuristic goals.
Squinting, I could just make out through the fog the shadow of the rope swing
backlit by the moonlight. There was no sign of Evelin or her mother. As the time
imperceptibly wore on I imagined what the ghost of Evelin would look like. I
imagined a small figure with blonde Shirley Temple curls in a white, multi-lay-
ered baptismal gown, her bare feet acting as a pendulum to regulate her eternal
motion. Around her an aura of neon orange blurred her translucent form like
techno music glow sticks obscure ecstasy driven dancing. The swing remained
still. The apparition remained hidden.
A thought occurred to me sitting there alone in the woods: what if I
wasn't truly alone? What if, just what if, there was someone or something there
with me? If the weeping woman, the murderous mother of Evelin Thompson,
was cursed to roam the Bayou Teche never to reach her daughter then she
wouldn't be on the same side of the bayou as her daughter; she would be
on the other side of the bayou. Abruptly, all the rustlings and movements of
the woods became agonizingly apparent. The crackling activities of the small
nocturnal animals venturing from their forest homes to raid the garbage cans of
Sandager came into sharp auditory focus. I was not alone; the forest was alive.
Panting and out of breath I emerged from the brambles encompass-
ing the gate. Mike and John were laughing hysterically by the dying fire. I was
breathless, scared and red from the brambles and embarrassment at the
irrepressible fear both the forest and the dark had enlivened in me. They were
breathless and red with laughter and the success of their peer pressure.
"Well, did you see her?" guffawed Mike.
"Yeah, I saw her."
if I wake up and you aren't there,
if I must face the day alone,
I won't know how to live.
I just could not do it on my own.
if I wake up and can't talk with you,
if I have to hold all my pain inside,
I won't know how to smile.
My heart will storm like a raging tide.
if you do not whisper your love to me,
if you no longer care for my life,
I won't be able to live any longer.
Nothing else will turn out right.
when you wake me with an embrace,
when you take all my nightmares away,
I won't be able to hide my joy.
I will live for you, my precious Yahweh.
A Lot Lik0 Vvatohing/1 Gar Crash
He said it's a lot like watching a car crash,
Watching me dance.
But a cinematic crash,
The beautiful kind that makes you cringe and laugh
At the same time.
The kind the director spends hundreds of thousands to make
Beautiful and disturbing as possible.
He said it's a lot like watching a car crash.
My arms flail and my head bobs and my body jerks,
There's no stopping the impact
And it puts you on the edge of your seat,
And my body flashes in the dim lighting.
He can't look away.
He said it's a lot like watching a car crash.
He leans forward and tilts his head
As he sees another body colliding with mine.
But he can't move-
Frozen with fear and anxiety and anger,
Wanting to take back moments, rewind and play again.
He thinks I'm beautiful.
He said it's a lot like watching a car crash.
Everything moves in slow motion.
The music amplifies the mood,
The perfect song to watch a beauty break to-
It's almost chilling.
He said it's a lot like watching a car crash.
And he thinks about how he thinks I'm cinematically beautiful,
A classic crash to high impact maniacal melodies,
And he can't move but needs to.
His heart goes out to putting me back together;
He thinks I'm beautiful when I dance.
! Would Run Kites
I can run
through great green fields with white Keds and not
worry about grass stains or anthills or knots.
Deep breaths, heavy breaths. Look,
I can crush every blade of grass. And I
I could run and run in the hot sun,
drenched in sticky stuck on me and I
could keep kicking through dirt all night.
Breathe in, breathe out violent. Hey look.
I could be blistered and bruised and burned and still
I could do it all, and all while
my muscles strain and sting and scream. See
I'd outrun the whole goddamn world forever.
And I would do all of this to make you smile, because
I am a great selfish person
with good calf muscles.
I cover my window with curtains,
the sun shaded into a shallow light.
I place my stuffed animals in a brown box
and close it. My wall weeps.
A yearbook is left opened.
It sits in the only open box
in the middle of my room.
Tape that constricts other brown boxes glints in fading light.
The covered clear glass gives me thick, painful comfort.
I will lose my familiar room.
Yellow light that is left sears my walls.
Handprints have kissed them
to an aged light brown.
They are to be painted white tomorrow.
Detached from this familiar place,
I am sealed away to be taken
Mrs. Ella Finneran had always prided herself on her abilities as a teacher. It
wasn't hubris either, as evidenced by the numerous awards and accolades she
had accumulated over her some two decades as an instructor. The job could
be hard, but she was proud of her work and enjoyed her students. The occa-
sional troublemaker had come along; but, all things considered, she counted
herself lucky that nothing terrible had ever happened. No, she had, over the
course of her career, very little to complain about.
That was, until Barry Trumble came along.
He was not a bad child. If anything, he could have been labeled as too
inquisitive and more than willing to embrace the unexplained things in life. To
some, that would be an endearing quality, a sign of a precocious, intelligent
child. To Mrs. Ella Finneran, it was a threat. She had heard the stories about the
kindergarten, first, and second grade teachers.
When Jannie Royal, the first grade teacher, pulled up stakes and moved out
of town in the middle of the school year, there was silent agreement that Barry
Trumble was the cause. The source of this belief, many agreed, may have been
the note left on the Principal's desk that read "No More TRUMBLE!" There may
or may have not been a string of expletives and violent threats following that
statement. Accounts varied.
Missy Howl, the second grade teacher, kept her job, but took an extended
sabbatical and trip to the Bahamas following Barry's exit to third grade. While
no one was totally sure what happened during Missy's "island adventure,"
rumors swirled that she briefly associated with a loosely organized Voodoo cult.
Fuel was added to the fires of speculation when it was revealed that there was
a room in Missy Howl's house, which no one was allowed to enter. Some said it
contained dead chickens and shrines to horrors beyond imagination, while oth-
ers insisted that it housed dirty laundry. Again, accounts varied.
The odds of coming out fine on the other end of a year with Barry Trumble
were not good, but Mrs. Ella Finneran was determined to make the best of the
situation. Her foolish optimism would soon be torn asunder.
"Mrs. Finneran! Mrs. Finneran!" Barry Trumble's hand shot into the air as
Mrs. Ella Finneran turned away and grimaced. Taking a few seconds to com-
pose herself, she turned back to face the classroom.
"Yes, Barry?" The sweetness in her voice could not have been hollower. It
had only been a few weeks, but already she had learned how this would play
out. Barry would say something completely insane, she would attempt to argue
the point, and he would drive it into the ground until she conceded defeat. The
brilliance of his plan, if it indeed was a plan, was that he got her to bite every
single time. She simply couldn't shrug it off.
"What's the biggest bird there is?" Barry's face was bright and energetic
- the unassuming face of a child actually enthusiastic about learning.
She sighed, somewhat relieved. That wasn't an unreasonable question,
especially given the biology unit they were covering. Maybe she was making
progress with him.
"Well, Barry, there are several different answers to that question. The Os-
trich is the largest overall, while the Albatross has the largest wingspan. And the
Andean Condor is..."
"No, none of those," Barry interrupted. "My dad told me about the largest
bird and it wasn't any of those. Jeez, Mrs. Finneran, aren't you supposed to
know this stuff? What do they pay you for?" Mrs. Ella Finneran grimaced.
"And what did he tell you, Barry?" Barry's dad told him a lot of things. With
the exception of perhaps a single occasion, everything Barry's dad had told him
had been of highly questionable value. She immediately regretted continuing
"Well, he said that in the seventies there was this little kid in Indiana that
was playing in his yard. He said that the kid's mom was watching him from
the porch and all of a sudden, like WOOOSH, this giant bird swoops outta the
sky and picks the kid up! Like an eagle picking up a fish, except this kid was
like three years old! Just picked him up right outta the yard while his mom
Mrs. Ella Finneran shuddered before composing herself enough to con-
tinue. "Well, Barry, that's a very interesting story but I think it's just that - a story.
If there was a bird that big I'm sure someone would Ve reported it. Especially if
it tried to capture and eat a toddler."
"But they did report it," countered Barry. "Lotsa people know about it! They
found the kid alive in a nest in the mountains a few days later. Indians used to
talk about it all the time. I think the bird is called the Thunderbird. That's what
my dad said, I think."
"Yeah, said after he'd polished off a bottle of Thunderbird..." Mrs. Ella
Finneran mumbled under her breath.
"So, anyway, yeah. This giant bird tried to eat this kid! It's a widely known
fact, Mrs. Finneran. You should really think about reading more often. I saw
this thing on TV where some people think that it was like a pterodactyl, but the
woman said when it carried her kid off that it had feathers, so I doubt that could
"So you're saying that the only part of this story, a story about a giant bird
trying to eat a toddler, that you question is whether or not the giant bird was
actually a dinosaur? That's the only part of this story that sounds implausible to
"Mrs. Finneran, pterodactyls weren't dinosaurs. They were winged lizards.
That's something completely different!" Barry shook his head in disapproval, the
smile never leaving his face.
"And Australia is the only continent that is an island," Mrs. Ella Finneran
said. Christmas break was just around the corner and her mood was lifted by
the promise of time away from Barry.
"No, that isn't true." Barry had stopped raising his hand after she had
stopped calling on him. Now he simply interjected his wit and wisdom when-
ever he felt it was called for. Mrs. Ella Finneran was too tired to fight it anymore.
"What isn't true, Barry?" She had always questioned the validity of the
claim that insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting
different results. Now she saw that she had become a shining example of that
"Atlantis, Mrs. Finneran. What about Atlantis?"
"There is no such thing as Atlantis, Barry. "
"I really thought more of you, Mrs. Finneran. You could've just said 'I didn't
include Atlantis because it sank into the ocean thousands of years ago.' Now
you say that it doesn't even exist! What proof do you have that it doesn't!?"
"You can't prove a negative, Barry." She didn't even know why she tried
"Sure you can! Say I want to prove Bigfoot isn't real, right? All I gotta do is
have someone in everywhere in the woods all at once. If nobody sees him, then
he isn't real! Only that would never happen, because he is real. My cousin saw
him on a camping trip one time. He said he saw him push this kid down in the
mud and steal his sandwich. He tried to take a picture, but Bigfoot threw a rock
at him and ran off!"
It had been a good week. Barry had had to have his tonsils removed and,
though she didn't wish any harm on anyone, his absence had allowed her to
conduct class the way she normally liked to. On Monday of the next week,
however, this silence was broken.
"Now class, while we don't have a king or queen in America, in some
places they still do. England, for example, still has a Royal family, even though
they don't have as much power as they used to."
Barry's hand shot up, but she ignored it and kept talking. "Instead, they
have a Prime Minister and Parliament, which are a little bit like our President
and Congress but with some differences." She turned hoping that Barry's hand
would be down. It wasn't.
"Yes, Barry?" She had long ago abandoned any pretense of kindness.
"Well, my Dad says that the Queen of England is actually a Reptoid."
"A wha...? Barry, you've really got to stop interrupting class with these
sorts of distractions."
"It's not a distraction," Barry said. "It's the truth. And my Dad says that the
reason people like you call things like this a distraction is because you're naive
and can't handle reality."
"The reality that the Queen of England is a... Reptoid? That reality is the one
I can't handle?" Mrs. Ella Finneran felt herself edging ever closer to the breaking
point. "Ok, Barry, I'll bite. What's a Reptoid?"
"Well, see, my Dad says that a Reptoid is like a person, only a lizard. Like
a lizard person, sorta. But not like the Lizardman in South Carolina. That's
something different. He's like the Reptoid version of Bigfoot. He's stupid and
chases cars and eats dogs. Reptoids, 'least what my Dad says he heard from
this guy that used to be a soccer player in England, are smart. Smarter than us
even. And they can shapeshift and make themselves look like normal people.
Then they do that and they get into government and try to take all the power for
"And... And you actually believe that?" Her voice was a combination of awe
"Well, I haven't seen anything that makes me think it isn't true." Barry
smiled, pleased with his answer.
"Right, right... Look, Barry. What I'm about to do is against my better judg-
ment, but why don't you tell the rest of the class about Reptoids and what they
do." Mrs. Ella Finneran didn't know why she said that and regretted it immedi-
ately. Immediate regrets had become a recurring theme in her life post-Barry
"Well, they're behind all the big empires in history. Rome. England. They
were behind the Nazis, I think. I'm not sure what the soccer guy says about
"So you're saying that the real version of history is that lizard people who
can shapeshift to make themselves look like normal people are actually respon-
sible for the Roman Empire."
"Yeah! And World War II! Now you c,_
"Christ, Barry." Mrs. Ella Finneran was shocked at what came out of her
mouth, but let it go when the bell rang to end the day a few moments later.
"No ma'am," Barry said. He was standing next to her, readying to leave for
the day. "He wasn't one." Barry smiled and shuffled out the door.
That weekend, while out doing some shopping, Mrs. Ella Finneran spot-
ted Barry and his father. Not wanting to be seen, she ducked behind an aisle.
As the had weeks passed, Mrs. Ella Finneran found herself increasingly unable
to deal with the observations, commentary, and insights of Barry Trumble. Yet,
she found herself in a strange situation - He wasn't overtly breaking rules, his
grades were high, and he was extremely bright for his age. He was capable of
discussing topics that most in his class had no grasp on whatsoever.
But he was, judging from his worldview, also batshit crazy.
Once upon a time, thinking something like that would probably have made
Mrs. Ella Finneran head directly for the confessional. But Barry Trumble had
changed that. Barry Trumble had pushed her to places she didn't ever want to
go again. Barry Trumble. The name alone made her shudder.
While attempting to hide from Barry and his father, Mrs. Ella Finneran acci-
dentally knocked over a jar of olives that fell to the ground and shattered. Much
like a loud noise piques the interest of a dog, so did this noise to Barry. Darting
around the corner at full speed, Barry hit the brakes upon locking eyes with his
"Mrs. Finneran! You shouldn't break things that don't belong to you! That's
vandalism! You're lucky that the cops didn't see that, you'd probably be in jail
Mrs. Ella Finneran 's eye twitched nervously. She had been blessed with
good health her entire life, so she wasn't sure if the sensation she felt in her
head was oncoming apoplexy or just blinding rage. Still, she repressed it to the
best of her ability.
"I don't think you'd like jail very much. I saw this movie about jail on Cin-
emax one night and, let me tell you, there is some weird stuff going on there. In
this one part there were these two ladies and they were in the shower and..."
"Barry, I'd like to speak to your father."
"He's not gonna want to talk to you, ma'am. He says you don't get it, that
you don't see the big picture. He says he doesn't talk to people that are 'mental
midgets'. Whatever that means."
At this, whatever pretense of reserve Mrs. Ella Finneran had snapped. She
picked up another jar of olives and smashed them against the ground, scream-
ing. "Mental midget!? Mental midget!? I'm not the one that believes in Reptoids!
Everyone, did you know that the government is controlled by lizard people! It's
true! Just ask around!" The original intent of this declaration had been mockery,
but Mrs. Ella Finneran soon figured out, mostly due to the fact that security
was escorting her out of the store, that her rage had prevented that particular
subtlety from shining through. As she was ushered out the exit, the voice of
Barry Trumble called out.
"Mrs. Finneran, I told you not to do that! I always tell you, but you never
seem to get it."
There are no answers for my questions,
To ease my suffering.
She whispers in my ear
There is no hope,
Just the lust
And all the evil that follows.
She binds my hands,
Bites into my flesh,
And bleeds me slowly
So that I feel everything.
But I can no longer tell if this is real.
Once she told me it was only as real
As I made it.
But now I think she was lying.
This is a game that dazzles all
And confuses only me,
The joke of it all.
She whispers more to me,
Knowing I am too weak
And foolish enough to believe all.
Is she real?
Or just another fantasy
Sent by demons to torment?
To tell the truth,
I no longer care,
For I can feel nothing anymore.
The world has grown cold
And the only sensations that come
Are from the pain she deals to me.
Bleed me slowly,
So I can feel everything.
Tho Wheel Of Th0 Yeor
Yule - Jason at Birth
The boom of thunder caused the newborn to cry. The screams of fear raged in
counter to the welcoming chant of the high-priestess and the echoing percus-
sion of the storm at the edge of breaking. The old priestess invoked the bless-
ings of her goddess upon the child as the priestess's consort invoked his god's
blessings. She looked towards the beaming parents and smiled, glad that they
were happy with the celebration, even if Jason was not. After all, today was
not about Jason, who would not remember, but rather about the family who
treasured this memory along with many others.
Imbolc - Jason at Nine
Jason shivered in the cold. He was playing with the snow as his par-
ents stood with the circle not far away. He was not really sure what they were
doing, but he knew not to interrupt them. Still, it was really hard not to when he
saw his father pick up a sword from the table in the middle of everyone. Jason
wanted a sword like that! His parents always told him that, if he worked hard
enough, he could have whatever he wanted. He would have that sword some-
day. After all, what he wanted was what was important today.
Ostara - Jason at 1 8
Jason fumed as he drove away from his parents' house: "Why are they pressur-
ing me into going to this stupid festival? I'm an adult now, right? Besides, I'm
not even sure I believe this magic crap anyways. Don't they always tell me to
decide the truth for myself? Why should I bother to care what they...!"
Just then an on-coming truck made an unexpected cross into his lane. Slam-
ming on the brakes and swerving off the road, Jason barley avoided death. The
truck swung back to its lane, accelerating away. And Jason spoke once more:
"Thank the God and Goddess!"
Beltane - Jason at 27
The May Pole reached out to touch the sky before them and all those
gathered waited in a joyful hush. Jason firmly clasped Ryan's hand in his own.
Their eyes met and they exchanged a loving smile. The priestess took her long
piece of silk cord and wrapped the hands of the loving couple. She said a
simple blessing and the circle, their friends, and their families officially accepted
the couple as belonging to each other. As the gathering of people cheered and
expressed their congratulations, the couple was in their own world. This day
belonged to the new family.
Midsummer - Jason at 36
Jason watched as their adopted son and daughter ganged-up on
Ryan and tried, unsuccessfully, to wrestle him to the ground. Ryan walked with
a child attached to each leg towards the picnic they had set up. Then there was
a stumble, the duo had won and their father fell, twisting his ankle to avoid fall-
ing on the kids. Jason reached into the first-aid kit for the emergency ice pack
they kept around because they knew that, with kids, it paid to be prepared.
Soon they were all laughing over the episode. Love overwhelmed Jason as his
family made his day.
Lughnasadh - Jason at 45
Jason stood with his family in their backyard. They had decided that
today it would be a small ceremony; just the family and the gods. Jason and
Ryan had sought every moment they possibly could with their children before
they left. No, not children anymore, they were grown and going off to college.
Jason cast a blessing of protection on his son and daughter. The four stood
knowing the necessity that awaited them, and dreaded it. Pride gave way to
tears and as he finished, Jason sent his final, silent prayer: "Thank God and
Goddess for giving me these days."
Mabom - Jason at 54
Jason stood before the black alter on which rested the urns containing
his parents' ashes. Tears streamed down his face as he lifted his father's old
sword. "I commend your spirits to the Crone, to take you and bring you to new
life. Your body has come from the earth, now we return it." The others in the rite
came forward and helped to spread the ashes, returning them to the Goddess.
Tears continued to pour as Jason's lover and children moved in to console him.
They gave their all to him because, this day, what he needed, came first.
Samhain - Jason at Death
Family and friends gathered. The soft music played. The children wept
and Ryan was too grieved even to form tears. Friends spoke of the moments
that they had shared and gave what support they could to those still living.
Condolences were given, but, like most emotional times, words meant nothing
to those who suffered. What mattered was that people were there as support
and help for those in need. This was a time for others. This day was not for Ja-
son, but rather a day for those left behind. After all, Jason had passed on and
wouldn't know what happened.
sweet -faced dove,
your wings have been clipped.
You chirp in your silver cage.
When I open your door,
you don't hop out.
you've been declawe
You mew and tumble in a win<
I try to hold and bandage
your sore paws.
most thoughtful angelfish,
you're in a tank, swimming to nowhere.
I tell you stories
of what I did today,
but you can't listen.
lady who left,
you're stuck in a frame.
Your paint cracks,
but you continue to smile.
I polish your tarnished silver frame.
SKHSrS H BMBft—HB
EsfiB &%$& BHi
I came upon a fresh clean river and
I felt blessed.
I allowed the sweet liquid to enter my soul and
I found fulfillment.
I waded, splashed and swam in the crystal clear water and
I grew strong.
I noticed that the river eventually began to grow dirty and sluggish and
I felt concern.
I acted as though I didn't notice the water had grown vile and polluted and
I cried secret tears.
I stood in the midst of the river allowing the churning water to flow around me
I held her aloft so that the corrosive filthy water couldn't contaminate her in-
I discovered my purpose.
trudged out of the dangerous water and up the bank, carrying her away from
the river and
We found peace.
The/ Wdting Cnos
hter RexDSuros "The Sparks
Where Do ! Fit !n The Ran?
Triumph Of Sot
J0!!yf ish/lnd Sngte Nouron
IkaA Bister hTho Sun
I knew before anyone else the car would run out of gas.
I can just sense things. I don't know how it works. My hands get
tingly, and suddenly I know about things that. . .will happen. . .in the near future.
In the backseat of my mother's car, I window-watched the white line of the
shoulder of the road run steadily along with our car. I put my new flip-flops to
the side as I sprawled my little-girl body over the entire area of the back seat,
spreading my legs over empty paper bags from the local fast food restaurants.
Straws still stuck out of week-old plastic cups with Coca-Cola stains fresh on
the car's lining. It had always smelled like burning death in my mother's car-
well, burning death with some extra Mexican burritos on the side.
My mother, in the driver's seat, had constantly rosy cheeks and darker
skin and wasn't a particularly calm driver.
"What's that sputtering?! We're slowing down! Why are we slowing
She forcefully hit the sides of the steering wheel two or three times.
"What's wrong?" my sister Sarah asked. She was five years older than
me at seventeen, and fat because she was pregnant by her boyfriend. She
leaned over and looked at the gas meter while my mother threw her hands up
"Mom. When was the last time you got gas?" Sarah asked.
Mom shook her head. It had been a while.
"Okay. Just pull up at Alex's station up here," Sarah said. She smacked her
gum, something, according to my mom, that would help her get through the
next nine months without cigarettes.
When the car sputtered and begin moving inches every ten seconds,
my mother pulled the car into the shoulder and turned the engine off.
"Okay. Restart the car," my sister explained, but it sounded more like,
"Okay. ReesTarT thuh cAR," because her accent was as thick as the muddled
Mississippi River itself.
In this way, we were lucky: the station was only a few yards away.
Rosewood was a town of 1 00 rest stops and about nothing else, but this par-
ticular rest stop was where my favorite sibling, my brother Alex, worked during
In the backseat, I watched the occasional car pass by us with a look of
concern. A few pulled into Alex's gas station. I wanted the car to sprout wings,
big, feathered, white wings, and fly us to the station instead of the pitiful, sput-
tering entrance I knew we'd make. In cartoons, with superheroes discovering
new powers each day, I wanted it to be our turn, or, at least our car's turn. I
didn't like being pitiful. The TV stars never had Mexican-food breath in a hot
\ a sun beaten, barely paved road with faded yeiiow lines.
We made it into the gas station, and my mother sighed, troubled. She
~~ck towards me
"Delia, do you want an Icee?"
Duh. I nodded.
"Okay. Here." she handed me a five-dollar bill. "Try and get your brother
"My god. Mom, it's an Icee. You want some kind of discount? Sarah
muttered. My mother rolled her eyes and then began unbuckling her seatbelt.
I opened the back door and, clutching the money in my left hand, i
_ imed the door with my right. The store was going to be air-conditioned, and
Iwas going to get an Icee. The summertime heat and hot gusts had sweltered
up in waves around our small black car with no air conditioning. It had been hot
and humid for days now, with no signs of the current drought letting up.
We passed two or three other cars guzzling gas, and a balding man near the
door smoking a Marlboro who eyed my stick legs in a way that I didn't particu-
No one in the convenience store cared to give us more than a second
glance. Sarah found two friends who happened to be in the front of the store,
while my mom got in line to prepay for the gas.
I found the Icee machine where it aiways was in the back of the store.
The cherry flavor machine glinted at me, winking In anticipation. I immediately
began pouring the cool mix into a cup.
I was looking for a straw when I felt two hands come around and cover
jw a sharp audible breath in as my body squirmed, trying to get away.
"Hey! Hey! Delia, relax, it's me, stupid."
"Aiex-an-deeer," I said, drawing out his full name with pretend exas-
peration. I turned and faced him.
My brother was my best friend. I had few friends at school, and if I'd
ever bothered Alex, he'd never let me know. Really, he was the perfect brother,
the family member I idolized.
"Whatcha doin here?" he asked.
"Mom ran out of gas. Hang out with me until we leave," I said.
"I have work to do."
"C'mon. Just five minutes."
"Well, as long as you— hey, look. Hollywood just came in," he nodded
his head towards the front of the store.
My mother was up at the counter with cash in her hand, but both she and the
cashier were staring, along with the entire store, at the girl who'd just entered
This girl scared me. She was flawless; I'd never seen flawless before.
The girl was a woman really, with a tall stature and narrow shoulders. Her hair
A/as short and cut like current Posh high fashion: the front of her ice brown hair
(was layered and longer than the back, with the longest layers just a little lower
than her chin. Her hair really was ice brown, like mocha, and it wasn't oily, like
my sister's, or straggly, like mine and my mother's. No, this was a woman who
bought her salon supplies from a department store, a nice salon you'd read
about in magazines.
I started towards the front of the store. My brother saw me move and
grabbed my hand to stop me. "Let's not be obvious if we're going to stare," he
So we both went towards the candy aisle, where she was standing,
looking lost. I toyed with buying a Twix, while my brother examined the Twiz-
The rest of the store displayed the tactlessness I would have shown
had my brother not been so astute. They gawked and gathered and stared.
We were at a real live stand-still.
Her eye makeup was stunning. It was artwork— the way the grey ano
the white blended together just over her eyes, and a little outside her eyes as
well. Her eyeliner was black and blue, but not the kind of black and blue that
my father's eyes were after my mother found him cheating. It was done with an
artist's precision, as if she was going to be photographed, like the eye make-
up was the focus of the picture. She could pull off her freckles, very light, not
prominent, but a light dapple across her pretty nose and cheekbones.
She was a stunner, and about as skinny as I was, as bony as I was,
but taller than six foot, and well coordinated. Her earrings might have been
diamonds— I had many fake diamond earrings, and I couldn't tell the difference,
but here was a girl who sure never wore fake diamond. earrings. She had a mini
strapless blue dress that flared out right as it hit her thighs, with a medium sized
bow on the top left side of the dress.
What jumped out, through all of this, were her eyes. They were a
blue-violet shade that I'd yet to come across. It was a strange shade, a light
blue and a dark blue all at once, a little starburst of violet around the iris with a
light blue main color.
It's quite an accomplishment to have people staring at you for the right
reasons. There was such a presence about her that the entire store hushed.
town so the wild animals wouldn t hurt many people.
The model turned towards my mother, looking
counter. The clerk, with his ponytail, zits, and black circles under his
"Excuse me. where's vour restroom?" the m
rang high and clear, like a pretty bell.
"Go towards the Icee machine, the back of the store, on your left," the
He probably just peed himself, I thought, and stifled a snicker.
The model barely nodded as she walked towards the back of the
store. She paused by the candy aisle, checking out Kit-Kats, Baby Ruths, and
Skittles, but thought better of it. It was where my brother and I were still deep
in thought over whether we should splurge on a 60 cent Twix and/or Twizzlers.
Alex had chosen the perfect spot. Had I taken four steps ton/vard, I could have
reached out and touched her.
When she'd left towards the back, I looked at my brother.
"WOW!" I mouthed. My brother grinned.
"She's definitely not from around here, is she?"
"No. Please go seduce her and marry her so she'll make us famous," I
begged, only halfway joking.
"She'd be cradle-robbing. She's at least 25 years old."
"You shouldn't let that stop you from trying," I went on. "Be creative. Go se-
"Nope. It would never work out. I'd fall in love and she'd just marry
me for my good looks and money, and leave me when the well ran dry. But I
wouldn't mind her poster on my wall."
I rolled my eyes and took a sip of my Icee, which was slightly sweating
now from condensation.
The Marlboro Man had followed the woman inside, checking out her
derriere. My sister and her friends were whispering, their eyes following her to
the restroom. Old men in the corner of the store were discussing her in detail
and guffawing at some aspect of her outfit, while two older women were ex-
"Where does she think she is? L-friggen-A?" asked my sister.
My mother stood there, her eyes betraying nothing, but her ears eagerly listen-
"I thought I saw her steal that candy bar," Marlboro Man was telling the
man behind the counter. "The rich ones are rich for a reason. Poor folks don't
steal, that's why they're so poor."
Goosebumps began to rise all over my arms as the hair on the back of
my neck stood straight at attention. Why didn't she buy something? Who was
she trying to impress here? There was a snap in the air, a change of atmo-
sphere, shifty eyes and awkward glances.
"What'd she take?"
"I didn't see her take anything."
"She took some Skittles. You saw it, you just missed it. The rest of us
"She put it in her dress."
"Maybe she did take something. Okay, I wasn't looking hard. She
went to the bathroom for a reason," a man said.
Immediately I felt this would intensify. I couldn't help feeling more and
more uneasy with each passing second she spent in the bathroom.
"Alex," I said softly, "I think they're going to hurt her."
He looked down at me, concerned. He was still playing with the Twix
bar, and the murmurs and whispers were filling otherwise dead air.
"Why would they do that?"
"I just know," I said.
"You don't think you're being a little paranoid?" Alex smiled. I shook my
The man behind the counter said, "Steal from our store? She oughta
The Marlboro Man said, "Put her in a jail cell with me, please."
My sister said, "She'll get something coming to her. She probably
doesn't eat to stay skinny. Skinny bitches."
And my heart just pounded.
A minute, two minutes had come and gone, and she hadn't come
out of the bathroom. All of the customers still in the store had gathered by the
candy section where my brother and I had loitered. The convenience store had
become a scary, tense place to be; I regretted my Icee, regretted the car run-
ning out of gas, and regretted going with my mother to the General Store in the
first place. I didn't want to be here, and I had to be here to see this, all at once.
I never saw Willy Fremont pull up in his blue and white car, and I don't think
anyone else did either. All I heard was the little ring that alerted employees
someone had entered the store, and I remember being startled.
Willy Fremont was a friendly cop employed by the Mississippi State
Police to watch out over our town. He lived around here and worked mostly as
a speed trap along the freeway that ran through our town and passed this gas
station. He'd caught my sister speeding in our mother's car and he'd let her go
with a warning, all four times. He was a family friend.
Willy stood at the door, barely inside. A gust of hot wind slammed the
door shut behind him. I remember being startled a second time and looking
out the glass windows all around the door at the swirling gas receipts and extra
paper, like little baby tornadoes, that littered around the station. Willy looked
ashen. His sharp features were creased in concern and he never seemed to
take notice of the odd crowd of twelve to fifteen people that had formed around
the front of the gas station.
He nodded his head towards my mother and a few others, a curt
greeting. "Y'all. Hey. Just wanted to warn your store here," he motioned to-
wards the employee behind the counter. My brother looked up sharply.
Oh... what happened? I wondered.
There's been a fire. A quick brush fire, I realized suddenly. I could almost feel
the blaze jump over the trees, growing stronger under today's intense heat. It
was hot. Dry. And, of course, windy. Perfect conditions for a perfect wildfire.
Firemen had to be all over it, or at least coming to tend to it, if Willy knew about
I started shaking, tense and afraid.
"A wildfire," he announced. "Just north of here. It's small right now,
but we've got men coming down to work at containing the thing. I've been
advised to tell you to utilize caution around the area." Willy nervously clutched
a police radio in his right hand. Reports had been beaming in and out, unin-
telligible police talk of codes and numbers coming in and out with increasing
"What happened?" The old man in the neighboring aisle began the
"Is it near Jim's place?"
"How bad's it gonna get?"
bo far, the man answered y
TJe lonS TSfTf' d ' ' nClUdin9 Willy ' watched her - With each steo
Now her head really snapped up. "Excuse me?"
M e and my friend here saw you take that candy."
V You re mistaken, " she said sharply.
she dok a candy to the bathroom and shoved it in her dress° '
( „of U ? e me ' but that ' s bullshit -" she said indignantly'
Check her, Willy," the cashier said gruffly.
She was startled. "Look, why would I-
Willy interrupted, "Ma'am, let's just —
And then she interrupted, "A 50 cent candy bar. Where would I —
"She stuffed it down her shirt!" One of my sister's friends yelled out. "I
saw her do it! On her way to the bathroom!" My sister tried to quiet her down,
but both girls were laughing quietly
"She must've eaten it," a different woman said. She was near the front
of the store with her child. "She's got the wrapper stuffed down her brazier!"
"That'll be the proof!"
"She probably started that fire, too," a particularly brazen man from the
"Whaa--what?" the girl said again, bewildered.
"Well, now," Willy said, "There's a couple of serious allegations."
"Serious? It was just a candy bar," the girl said.
"So she admits it!" the cashier said triumphantly.
"I mean, no! I didn't take a candy bar! But— c'mon! Anyone?!" She
stared wildly into the crowd of people formed around the front. "You people—
are you serious?"
We were all quiet.
"You're serious!?" she half-panicked. She crossed her arms across her
chest and seemed to shrink. "You're all serious!?"
"Ma'am, it won't take but a minute to search you and clear you," Willy
lowered his head a bit to make eye contact. Marlboro Man let loose a 'Yeeah!'
"Sir, quiet down."
"Search her right here!" the cashier demanded.
The smirking, angry faces around her seemed to grow larger and red-
der. I tugged on Alex's sleeve, petrified.
"Alex — please. You know she didn't steal anything. It's crazy! These
people are crazy!" I whispered. My voice was coarse and harsh. Alex looked
"C'mon, please! Fix this!"
"She didn't do anything!"
"Delia, it's a big group of people—
"All you have to do is tell them —
"Delilah! Shut up!" he said, and he stared down at me. "Look at me!
What am I gonna do? And it's not like they're going to beat her up, or kill her,
or anything dangerous..."
I blinked twice and looked hard at my brother. I swear I almost died
from disappointment right there on the spot. Alex always triumphed in what-
ever he did. He was Alex, wasn't he? I looked at him in shock.
"You, you won't help her." I said stunned.
"No." My brother looked at me, his face hard and strange and scary.
My mouth dropped open, and closed, and opened again. I turned back to the
front of the store.
"I'm sorry, ma'am," Willy said. "Please, allow me to check for stolen
items. Last warning."
She bit her lip, terrified.
"Will you let me go?"
"Naturally, if there isn't anything suspicious, we are absolutely gonna
'let you go.'"
I didn't know about search warrants and unreasonable searches, and I
doubt the model did either. Honestly I'm not sure if Willy knew anything about
what he was doing.
She looked at Willy, then at Marlboro Man, then at the cashier, then
back at Willy. Her eyes never met mine, but all eyes, mine included, were on
"Okay," she said softly.
"Please step over towards the counter and spread your arms, your
legs," Willy said in a gruff voice.
Marlboro Man whistled, and Willy started patting her down, giving her
the once-over. He seized her waist. His hands lingered, rough fingers treading
flesh. By the time he got to her chest, I turned my eyes away.
Around this time, my brother grabbed my Icee from my hands and put
it on the floor. He then took my hands in his, and placed them over my ears to
muffle out the old men whistling while he led me around the spectacle and out
I know they didn't find anything; I know she drove away. I remember
my brother letting my hands fall, so the sounds weren't muffled. I remember
Marlboro Man and Willy and the Cashier's angry tones. I remember my sister
smacking her gum and telling her friends, "She had what was coming to her."
I remember meeting my mother's brown eyes, brimming with alarm and dis-
"Come on, Delia," she said, once she was outside and near enough
to take my hand. "We're going home. I grabbed your drink," she motioned
towards my partially melted cherry Icee in her other hand.
I took it. It felt wrong of me to take it, like I should have just thrown it
away. Instead, I gripped the Icee tightly and sucked at the straw the whole way
The little brushfire was eventually fully contained, but only after the
flames grew a bit. Fires fly whichever way the wind blows. The flames contin-
ued lapping up trees and burning out leaves for at least two more days before
it was extinguished completely. In its wake were a lot of loose branches and
burnt-up trees. A broken kind of forest.
Nothing was really said about the incident. The sheriff gave Willy some
kind of official warning for mishandling the situation. The biggest surprise came
from my brother. A few days later, he told me offhandedly about a Skittles
wrapper with a few skittles still in the bag being found in one of the women's
stalls that day, lying out near the trashcan. It was like someone had tried to
throw it in the trash and missed by a few inches. Was it hers? My brother be-
lieves it was. I'm not sure.
Anyhow, I don't foresee any strangers stopping in Rosewood in the
near future. It's just as well. No one is coming, and no one's bound to leave
here anytime soon.
"The British are coming, the British are coming,
So shouts Paul Revere.
I cannot block them out,
These voices that I hear.
"Fear not," I hear the angels say
To the shepherds in the field.
I cannot block these voices out;
Sadly, they're quite real.
"I had a dream, ... let freedom ring,"
Calls Martin Luther King.
I cannot block these voices out;
They will always sing.
I can hear Atlanta crying,
As the fire burns below.
I cannot block these voices out;
They will never go.
"Four score and seven years,"
Starts Honest Abraham.
I cannot block these voices out;
They're part of what I am.
Through all of the days,
the Eiffel Tower looms above
calling everyone under the Sun
to her, this Beautiful City.
In the shadow of her wonder
sits a little cafe
always bubbling with Life.
swoon over each other
as the aroma of their drinks
delights their senses and
they swoon over It
just the same.
share a drink
like many Times before.
whatever stumbles upon
sitting at a Table
trying to write
the new Classic,
a new Story
that will entrance
All the while,
staring and chuckling
at the bumbling tourist
with a map in hand
and a Dumbfounded look
upon his face,
not knowing where to go next,
trying to Live the Parisian Life.
February 3, 1973, somewhere off the New York coast -
Once, there was a war where three men were told to put their hammers
down. The gun with the barrel as long as two Cadillacs wouldn't fire without
the three men pulling the trigger, their hammers down, sweaty and grimy hands
rubbing against the handles until the coastal village was left plain, wafting on
the wind. It took three men, a Trinitarian tribunal of three, to deal out death and
judgment on the innocent, lest the mass destruction be considered inhumane.
Hey man, one said, hey, man, I don't know how I feel about this. When the
times comes, I dunno if I'm gonna be able to pull that trigger, youknow? I mean,
that's... That's some heavy shit, man. That's some heavy shit there, knowing
you, yaknow... Like you wake up and that's it, man. You dead.
There is and was nothing like the moral objectors. No way to tell you what
a conversation like this is like. Even now, the scene plays in your mind and you
think a thing. But there is nothing like that. Nothing was as simple as that. Each
man is given a pistol for just such a moment, and told if the guy next to you
does that, doesn't pull that fucking trigger for whatever reason, well, you shoot
his fucking head off and pull that goddamn trigger for him. In a conversation like
that, things can only go one way. Boom. And you better be damned sure you
do your job, otherwise you won't be so sure about what the guy seated next to
you will do.
War is a lot like peacetime in that sense. You can say you'll do a million
things. Tomorrow we'll go here, the day after there. After it's all done, you can
say what you could have done, should have done, what the "right" thing to do
was. But what do you know? What do any of us know, really, when it comes to
a moment like that? You never know what the person sitting next to you will do.
Whether you're a gun control technician perched in the lofty tribunal court
of the gun director, perched atop the ship, or a slant-eye on the island just try-
ing to feed your kids with a coconut and some rice when you wake up, see the
guy on the other side of the water out there, and maybe you'll have tomorrow,
maybe you won't. But you don't know. None of us do.
On his tour of duty, Frederick made it a policy to keep his hammer
squeezed. It was the two bastards next to him who were responsible. Occa-
sionally, he would look through the scope just to see something, anything, and
he'd see a child or a hut in a village or a flock of chickens or some sign of family
life. He'd shut his eyes again, lean his head back and just squeeze. The other
sonsabitches were the ones who did it, he would tell himself. But that would
change when he retold the story to his therapist three decades later.
As a gun control technician, Frederick had a reprieve that day, both be-
cause it was February and because he was on deck with the wind instead of in
one of the gun director's three seats. What civilians don't tend to know is that
anyone who has been in the Navy can request to be buried at sea. Frederick
was one of the ones who fired off a salute with a rifle, then tucked his gun away
in the gun shaft to change out of his dress uniform. He would be right back to
clean the rifle, he said to Thimmer.
The war was not over yet, and the Basilone had returned to New York for
repairs. Simple things like handrails, C0 2 bottle brackets, and boiler mainte-
nance. The ship may have survived the tour, but the physical exhaustion of
war caused her to sigh heavily that morning, a tremor of expectancy pulsing
through the crew. Neil Young's After the Goldrush had played all summer long
and through Christmas. It was the only album on board. Guys loaned each
other their radios to pick up the stations from New York, and it was only a mat-
ter of time now before they poured out into the city. What did they care about a
radio, after all? They were gonna get some ass once they docked.
A ship is a strange community, unique in that it is cut off from the world and
in constant danger of being attacked and destroyed. Paranoia breeds, and the
only certainty is that the guy next to you will do his job just like you're doing
yours, or Boom. No matter how casual a man seems, this is never far from
his mind. Frederick was thinking about what he was going to do once he got
off board. Women loved a guy in a suit, but did he feel like playing with them,
drawing it out? Making them dime on him before he-
There was a sudden, silencing rumble - the kind that makes everything
harshly stop, time like a thick marmalade on the tongue, everyone statuesque
as the brain registers facial muscles tightening and grinding into instinct as that
moment, that instantaneous moment travels - and then Frederick's head came
through the jumper, his arms still in the air, waving it into place. He turned, and
then night fell. Another frozen moment, but moved through more quickly, no
time for mistakes, no time for anything save the primal survival of men who
might just be your savior before this was through. There was another soft,
distant rumble as the lights came back and a generator switched, bathing
everything in a dim yellow. All of the guys in the quarters looked to one another,
golden gods and shadowed spirits in the emergency lights, confirming that
yeah, that just happened. And yeah, it had to be a torpedo. And yeah, there
had to have been an attack. And yeah, get your ass out of that bed right god-
damn now, 'cause that really just goddamn happened.
The pinging of the Claxon siren began and did not stop for two hours. Ping
after ping. The pings putting everyone on edge, the pings eliciting every instinc-
tual response, the pings for self preserva-ping-tion. By the time Frederick, ping,
had moved towards the door, an excited voice began, "All hands-" Ping, "-to
battle stations." Ping. "This is not-" Ping, "-a drill." Ping. "Repeat." Ping. "All
hands-" Ping, "-to battle stations." Ping. "This-" Ping, "-is not a drill." Ping.
He flew up the stairs, each man shoving another out of the way, nothing
civil about wanting to reach daylight and get to your post. Each station had to
be at their post for body count, a man assigned to his place was more easily
counted this way than by yelling a call and response in the John, Hey, you in
there? Yeah, I'm here. Under such strain, living in confinement for months, the
brain acts curiously, building apprehensions into realities and repeating those
realities, rumors whisking from stem to stern, but unlike on land, the rumor is
the same and not lost in translation. And when a thing is a truth, it travels even
more quickly as if by providence. Such as it was when the boiler exploded. By
the time Frederick reached the deck of the ship and saw the neat plumes of
black there, the four bodies, passing the gun shaft where men were trying to
force the door open, passing the stench of something that almost made him
hungry, past Swoyer who - my god, were those his hands? - everyone knew at
that same moment that while there had been no torpedo, there had been no
attack, this was not something they had prepared for in their exercises.
Frederick scrambled up and up, mounting his controls in the gun director,
shoving the earphones, which could muffle the destruction of villages, over his
head, the voice from before that had commanded him to his battle station now
told him, with pregnant pauses, that the boiler had exploded. That there were
casualties. That he should have died.
"I'll be right back," he had told Thimmer. "Help you clean up." Clean the
rifles. Ah yes, a distant promise now. Had that even been today? Moments
ago? Ah, dammit, where was Thimmer.
Yes, that Thimmer. The same. That mountain of a man, all 6'2", all 295
pounds, that same Thimmer who had come on board the same time as Freder-
ick, who wanted to go to college and see his kids again, maybe plant a garden
and take the kids to a game or two, who wasn't especially funny himself, but
made up for it with the roar of a laugh, yes, now, that Thimmer. The same.
Thimmer had been leaning against the door, waiting for Frederick to return.
The door had been shut as a matter of protocol when cleaning weapons, and
he was making small talk with Fire Technician Kelley, a black guy who got
excited over black empowerment and didn't feel second rate to anyone as
the highest ranking black man on board. The gun shaft had been right above
the boiler, and that's what did it. Heat rises, anyone will tell you that, and when
boiler three broke below, there was nowhere for the steam to go, but up. Thim-
mer, in a chair against the door, had been inside the room Frederick had seen
them trying to force open.
Swoyer, a boiler technician, had his hands melted off. Literally. When the
boiler began to overheat, he was the one who sealed the valve to contain it, his
hands losing all sensation as nerve endings popped and blistered, turning pink,
then white, then grey, peeling, peeling, until yes, my god, those were his hands,
those skeletal claws of bone, the skin flapping as it fell off the bone, that sicken-
ing smell of roasted flesh, yes, that had really happened. Yes, those were four
bodies on the deck he had seen, with names attached to them like
BT1 Hearrold, 34; BTFN Raun, 19; BTFN Zajazckowski, 21, and BTFN Hardin,
that 20 year old boy delivered on board with the ashes. And yes, Thimmer was
sitting down in the chair, propped against the door, right above the boiler, the
steam apparating through the metal floor, sealing them in like an oven, yes, that
same Thimmer, when they shoved that door open, had plopped right onto the
floor and burst open like a Jell-0 mold gone wrong. That was Thimmer, and
Death, that last enemy, had its meal before him from the appetizer of Swoyer,
the entree of BTFN Hardin right down through jellied Thimmer and Kelly.
As Frederick sat there, the last seat he wanted to sit in, he kept going over
it all in his head. When he came down from the gun director, he passed by the
shaft and muttered something that sounded like, "Shouldabimee," but no one
took notice. All eyes were on the guy who was scooping up pieces of clothes
drenched in the syrup of ruptured bodies.
After seventeen hours of information silence descended, but the explosion
and miles of black cloud and ash were too big for the New York newspapers
to not spread across the wire. Rumors reached the western coast, losing all
elements of truth by the time their echo returned, and the families of those on
board would be visited shortly after lunch the following day by men in dress
uniforms like the one Frederick had gone below to take off.
"Yes sir, I'm alive," Frederick said into the receiver. "But let me call you right
back, okay? I need to call Grammarie. No, I'm fine. Listen-. No-. I promise, I'll
call you right back. I'll call you right back. I'll be right back."
Note: USS Basilone DD824 was towed to the Boston Naval Ship Yard for
repairs immediately. A court-martial was issued against Captain John Townley
and statements from the men in the boiler room provided evidence that he had
pushed the crew to an unrealistic point so that he could have the ship partici-
pate in training exercises scheduled two days following the explosion. It was
determined that the explosion was caused by three two- inch tubes becoming
unstable from rapid heating and cooling, causing water to flash to steam with
superheating and the boiler thereafter blowing up and out of its casing. The
steam reached above 1200 degrees, becoming entirely gaseous and able to
transfer through safety walls, floors and ceilings. Eight men died within a two
minute period, making the USS Basilone the worst non- wartime casualty loss
for its time.
.^_ - ., .-^-
The Machine wakes me
With the coming of dawn.
I feel the wires
Running in and out of my neck,
Tubes in and out of my chest,
And I wonder if this is normal.
The Machine tell*
I shake this off
As the Machine provides images
Of what's right and wrong.
I watch them in a daze.
The Machine tells me what's beautiful,
The Machine tells me
What to eat,
When to eat it,
What love is,
And when it comes.
I try hard to look away.
But all I see
Is the next generation
Being wired to serve.
And watch the world fade away.
1 1 ■ t.v" 1
I want to fight it,
Shut it down.
But the Machine tightens its hold on me
And suddenly it's so hard
To remember the important things,
The human things
Like: life, liberty,
And whatever happened after that.
I used to remember love.
I used to remember her taste.
And maybe that's what drives me
To break free,
Pull the wires out-
Be independent from others.
I fight the Machine,
Pull out the tubes,
Break the line.
And suddenly I smile
Because I can't remember a day
When I felt
As you thumb the pages of the Normal School's
Annual, made just before Hitler took Poland,
The past stops soaking into the present
And stands mirrored and transfixed. It is prophecy.
You too, oh so young,
Shall fade away -
Like these people's lives, just begun
Did to black, from grey.
They are regimented into grids,
Their faces, circles, squared.
No tears mar their fixed eyes,
Stoically contemplating a destiny you share.
They loved and hated and ignored and cared,
But they passed on their seeds.
Like a glove, they wore life threadbare
As ours now wears at the seams.
"You know you have no one to blame but yourself," Shade said. "This could
have been done much more easily. Quietly, of old age, in your warm bed..."
"Or in a car wreck. Heart attack. Cancer." Timothy's reply was a half-
hearted attempt at defiance, one that he had neither the will, nor the strength to
back up. His physical condition had deteriorated to the point that even moving
s capable of giving.
-eally think any of those are
Timothy couldn't argue. He was propped up against a frozen log in the
1 He of an icy partition, surrounded on all sides by endless white and an un-
natural stillness that echoed the hopelessness of his situation. What had began
as an admittedly ill-planned attempt to "get back to nature" had gone very awry.
His current day had started not much earlier, but after only a few minutes
of pained walking, he fell to the ground, unable to continue. He knew, though
he would never admit it, that his strength w~
amount of ground he was able to cover wa
new day. Despite this knowledge, even he was surprised at the speed with
which the day's journey had ended. Frustrated, sick, and on the verge of total
surrender, he pulled himself to a fallen tree. Not long after, Shade showed up.
"Look, I understand your situation here. I really do," Shade began again.
"Nobody wants to die. You don't know what's on the other side and that scares
the hell out of you. You're hurting, or at least you were before the frostbite
shorted out your nerves. You're upset that your family has no idea where you
are..." Shade plopped disinterestedly on the log Timothy was leaning against
and pulled a cigarette out of his jacket pocket.
"You could offer me one of those."
"Well, let's keep two things in mind," Shade said as he absently lit the ciga-
rette and took a long drag. "One, you are overwhelmingly convinced that I'm
not real. Two, if I'm not real then neither is this cigarette. No point in offering you
something that doesn't exist, right? That would just be cruel. On top of that,
listen to yourself. You don't talk so much as wheeze."
Timothy knew that to be true. After several days of uncharacteristically
labored breathing, he begrudgingly admitted to himself that he most likely had
pneumonia. He was aware that breathing in this sort of icy environment was
7 diffi cult even for a healthy man, but in the last few days it had become almost
" impossible for him to take anything outside of stilted, shallow breaths.
"God," said Timothy in a voice tinged with cachinnation. "I'm lying here
talking to someone who doesn't exist, who is smoking a cigarette I can't smell.
I've totally lost it." The statement was as much an act of deflection as it was an
"Must be the frostbite, Timmy-boy, because I'm in flavor country." Shade
put the cigarette between his thumb and forefinger and made a subtle flour-
ish in Timothy's direction. The sardonic salute was not lost on Timothy, but he
chose to ignore it.
"I think the thing that bothers me most," Timothy said after several seconds
of silence, "is that I know you aren't real and yet you won't go away."
Shade nodded. "Well, I think the thing that bothers you most is that you
know you're past your sell-by date and you can't believe you're spending your
final moments talking to me. Which, to be honest, kind of hurts."
At this, Timothy winced. In the back of his mind, he had known for days
that there was no hope of rescue. He had taken a policy of avoidance on the
matter, however, and had distracted himself with minutiae and the occasional
ray of false hope. Hearing, or at least believing he heard, the truth spoken aloud
was a knife through his heart.
"I saw that look," Shade laughed. "If it makes you feel any better, I'm sure
you're not alone. I bet plenty of middle-class twenty-somethings die exactly this
way every year. It's probably the leading cause of death among people your
age, actually. 'Oh, did you hear about what happened to Johnny? It's a cryin'
shame. Died pretending to be Grizzly Adams!' Someone should really start an
organization to prevent this sort of thing."
"Why are you the way you are?" Timothy's question had a tone that said he
didn't really expect much of an answer and didn't sound nearly as angry as he
"Ask yourself. According to your theory, I'm entirely inside your head."
"Either that, or you're the biggest asshole in the world," replied Timothy.
"Ha! That's what I like about you, Timmy-boy. You're quick on the trigger.
Too bad no one's around to appreciate it." Shade tossed the butt of his ciga-
rette to the snow and ground it out with his heel, lighting a new one as he went.
"You know, even if you aren't real, what the hell is with you? I'm dying..."
"And not with much dignity," Shade interrupted.
"I'm dying," Timothy continued unfazed, "and you're laughing it up."
At this, Shade threw his head back and howled with laugher. "You don't
get it, do you? I'm here to remind you that you're dying this cold, lonely death
because you're a total moron."
"Let's recap," Shade said as he paced leisurely back and forth in front of
Timothy. "This is all you, man. Every bit. You made this trip without the gear and
the know-how. You got lost. The reason you're not going to make it more than
a day or two is because you screwed the pooch. So you want pity? You want a
shoulder to cry on? Go to hell, you entitled baby. You deserve this."
Timothy felt a sudden swell of anger that, however briefly, flooded him with
energy. Standing, he charged Shade with everything he could muster but on
the third step of his charge Timothy's right leg gave out and sent him turn-
bling face first into the hard packed snow. Shade turned towards the fall and
grinned, shaking his head.
"Just can't win, can you?" Shade laughed again. "As much fun as I'm hav-
ing here, this whole thing has just gotten sad. Later, Timmy-boy. It's been real."
Shade turned to walk away.
"Wait. . ." Timothy said. He had tried to fight the words and knew it was
against his better judgment. "You can't leave me here alone. Not like this..."
"Leave you alone?" The words weren't said so much as cackled. "How can
I leave you somewhere you've been the whole time? I really don't want to get
into a discussion about metaphysics here, but there's nobody out here but you.
Sure, we could sit here and ask ourselves a bunch of questions about what
defines real. You strike me as the kind of guy that would gladly spend his dying
breaths doing exactly that. But in terms of what most people call real? In terms
of someone that can call for help and get a chopper or ranger out here? You're
totally alone, Timmy-boy, and have been the entire time. But I'm not telling you
anything you didn't already know."
Timothy was angry with himself for the feeling of hopelessness and dejec-
tion that followed these comments. Had he really let himself believe that Shade
"Yeah, I think you did," Shade replied to the unasked question. "And really,
that's sad, too. But we both know the reason, the real reason you don't want
me to leave."
Timothy knew. The second Shade left it would be over.
"Well, that's too bad, because I'm a busy fella with a lot of appointments
to keep. Can't keep hanging around here watching you fail at life. And don't
expect a long goodbye."
Timothy stared at Shade but said nothing. After a few seconds he mus-
tered everything he could and struggled to raise his hand. With a barely notice-
able motion, he waved Shade off. Shade, not unkindly, nodded in return and
Ihrew his cigarette to the ground. As Shade walked away, Timothy's vision
'began to fail him. With each step Shade took he became harder for Timothy
to see. Everything became harder to see. Soon Shade passed out of sight and
x Timothy closed his eyes.
^• : 4
1 1 1
"This Gnome is no More,
Ho Has GoasocI To Bo
I don't want to be right
or convince you of
anything like eternal things
such as love will win
or even argue about it
there is much more to
it than that, in the
if I have to talk you into it
to make you love me,
if I have to fight and beat you
until your black is blue
being a "good" guy
in a world like this
just wanted the day to be over
to run out the clock, somehow
for the moon to come rain over me
in little drizzles of light between
leaves and limbs along the path
illogical as it may have been
to dance between the lunar droplets
so the bottle was pulled from the cabinet
locked as it was moments before
it poured forth liquid sun, an abundance
meant to guide through to sloppy slumber and
howlings at the moon, that dark princess
just wanted to fulfill my duty
as a goodly, likable, lonely man
kind enough to make lunch and
conflicting dessert with boardgames
on porches of empty laughter
until the day is over, duties done
waiting for the moon
sipping mango-flavored rum
mixed with nothing-at-all
just wanted to sleep
and never wake to this again
-whatever 'this' is-
when sleep would not come
just wanted to die
sipping expired rum
apollo 1 3
the successful failure
of lunar missions
for sample collection
and windless flags
as the safety hatch was
sealed and rockets fired
taking the others bac
home to their loved ones
the last piece of salvage
abandoned to creation
for not all heroes get a parac
some burn in the atmosphere
the curse of blessing
love is a four letter word
good children of god
do not say such things
hush now, hush
he ate a vow of silence when
speaking wasn't served
chewing on his cheek
until it was a mottled ridge
closely connected to the heart
husic and meroin
she played air guitar
with callused fingers
made that way when
things got to be too much
anxious was nervous
the refrain of hit songs
beat'ng, strumming, hitting
all the ripe notes
. . i
all the ripe notes
birds fly across pallettes of time
marking musical notes
taught by callused hands
gay friends are the best friends to have
gay men are the best
kind of friends to have
you don't want nothin'
from them, they don't
want nothin' from you
they balloon into soft,
effeminate things, giggling
at all the right things
that you find funny or
insulting to tears
wanting to do things to
handsome boys, firm jaws
and devouring phallacies
just like you do
such good friends, they are
' "■■:■-■■• ''■- '
The stone marks the day and
This hour marks the time.
Silence is a nightingale and
She flies on a dime.
I mark the day with deep
Sorrow buried in a cold ground.
I look here and there, but no
Ghosts flutter around.
On this day, you are bone and
Breath escapes my lips like fog.
The pale fog that curls like fingers
The opened eye that lingers, and a skin
That smolders in its ash glowing —
The only light I'll ever know.
It grows steady eddies of time
Ticking time until it slows to black and
Cold with you in our family's sacred ground
To be with you, lowered, down to drown.
I heard you call from a dream
While I was 'way at sea
I heard your voice through gulls
Taunting, as if death were by your side.
We dance in eternal waters
In ethereal rivers we
Drove our ships to shore
And left to sea no more.
The LiffloC*! h
Sitting behind the plastic and metal desk,
I look at the other students- so many
with me in school, wearing black and white uniforms,
my disowned brothers and sisters.
I stare at the blank sheet of computer paper,
uncap my pen, and make a circle of ink on it
and the ink drips on my hand.
As I sink into the circle,
I feel a small pair of hands on me—
One slips down my throat,
while my breath leaves me
as another hand carries my sight.
My skin hugs me one last time,
before evaporating to blue flowers
and my muscles and bones crumple to wood.
My shadow stays:
it gives something back.
Thorns Ncno Rosens
She held the plant seed in her hand
And willed for it to grow.
And suddenly, before she blinked,
The rose dropped to the snow.
She smiled at the petals
With sadness shining through;
And, as they crushed beneath her feet,
All hope fled from her view.
Her crimson cloak spread like a fan
Behind her as she walked.
She headed to the leafless trees
Where all night-creatures stalked.
Her violet eyes did scan the wood,
Seeking shadows that could leap.
When the search found no jeopardy
Into the woods she ventured deep.
Out of the darkness reached a hand
That wrapped around her wrist.
Her fingers curled into her palm
Tightening her fist.
She breathed a sigh into the air
And slowly turned to face
The one that she most loved and feared,
Her fiery hell and saving grace.
He was her dream, her fantasy,
Her one and only need.
He was her own worst enemy,
A nightmare of misdeeds.
His curly hair matched the night
From which he once was birthed.
His midnight eyes could strip her mind
Cause her soul to be unearthed.
He smiled at her gently
But she quickly pulled away.
She placed the gift in his hand
And turned to a brighter day.
She refused to shed a tear,
As from the trees she came,
For something that should not have been,
For love's unpleasant game.
He stared in awe at her crimson cloak
As she let him go.
And though he tried with all his might -
The rose, it would not grow.
A Ghostly Mddon
A maiden calls out to the night;
She prays the stars may hear her plight.
For her love has gone away:
Killed her, dead, his heart astray.
And now she's back, and only weeping,
While the townsfolk continue sleeping.
And here she sits and here she'll stay,
Until her love returns to pay.
A maiden calls out, though she's dead,
Feeling pain with a heart of lead.
Pain and suffering know her well.
HPr2!t S ' tranSparentareoh ' so Pa'e.
H~ , 3re S ° aked with unreal tears.
Her shrieks are what fill children's fears
And here she sits and here she'll stay '
Until a kind word's sent her way.
A maiden reaches for her blade
But her hand begins to fade
For she's a ghost and didn't know
And now her lover is her foe
And now comes down the flood of tears
To retease the pain of ten long years
And h ere she sjts and here sheT|| ■
With memories of that tragic day.
Unreal your touch
As you peeled
My feet away
Of a daze
Even in darkness
With the crickets out, I can still see her pout.
For she waits at the door-
I helplessly watch
the disgusting repetitive movements.
A scratched CD ruthlessly inserted
inside her at conception
for Satan's sadistic entertainment.
The CD disintegrates and dissolves into
liquid Hell that is regurgitated
and absorbed by my soul.
Re-formed into a scratched record,
it plays over and over and over
its sinister song of self-blame and self-hatred.
My hands clutched the cold, grey metal of my loaded Remington 12-gauge
shotgun and my finger gently twitching over the trigger. The paramedic stood
on the opposite bank, towering over me. His poorly trimmed beard and frumpy,
shapeless Pillsbury body betrayed the authoritative image he meant to project.
But the initial comedy of his physical features quickly obscured once we locked
js meant business. His eyes con-
"Hey," he said. My eyes remained locked with his. "Hey," he said
louder, shaking me out of my gaze. He drew my attention to his belt. Holstered
there was a sleek black pistol. His presence made abundantly clear, he felt
the need to elaborate further on his intentions. "This," he said pointing at the
holstered weapon, "is a nine-millimeter. I have fifteen rounds in the clip and one
in the chamber."
This struck me as a rather stupid thing to say. Rehearsed, perhaps, in
front of the mirror illuminated by the soft, electronic glow of Jean Claude Van
Damn kicking somebody's face in.
"Are you threatening us?" My 1 5-year-old mind reeled with the possi-
bilities of what was happening. Who was this doughy man and why did he feel
the need to spout action movie cliches at me? Was he going to shoot without
provocation or orate his ridiculously circuitous plan for world domination and
the murder of countless British superspies? But his answer was much less
I "My daughter is playing in the backyard."
1 What did that have to do with his being here? "What does that have.
"My daughter is playing in the backyard," he cut me off, "and yoi
looting shotguns." I searched for the words. A snippy comeback. A defiant
Mi impassioned defense. But I had not seen this man before. Where had h<
ime from? Where did he live?
/ He turned, hand still on his gun, and pointed through the trees. Past
trie woods, past the neighborhood septic pond, past more woods was the hint
/of a house: a white beam, a few grey shingles and a half a dozen white bricks.
" house was just completed a few weeks ago; I had no idea anyone had
/ jd in yet. The house was far away, too far away really. I didn't know much
aV\ 5-years-old but I did know the air speed velocity of shellfire and I knew the
^wind resistance, forest barrier and 100 yard distance from the pasture to the
paramedic's home would preclude any pellets fired from a shotgun from com-
I remotely near the backyard where his daughter played. I knew the shotgun
fire lost it lethality at 40 yards. I knew descent patterns and flight angles of the
pellet spread from when I shot my brother five years ago and remembered
vividly his mild annoyance as the pellets rained down on his head. I knew, I just
knew, the paramedic was full of shit and that his decision to leave his daughter
and wife in a huff to retrieve his weapon and venture into the woods to threaten
a couple of 1 5-year-olds was some misguided sexual display that would invari-
ably result in another daughter.
"Oh come on," my bravery coming back to face the ridiculousness of
"Shut up!" he bellowed, tensing his hand over his gun. "You should
"You lost any chance of that when you threatened me."
"And you lost any chance when you shot at my daughter," he respond-
ed in the finest tradition of elementary school playground rhetoric.
"Are you an idiot or just an asshole?" I asked, fear being replaced |
with something far more dangerous. A warm, shaking, tearful rage welled u
from my chest and shot down my arm to the tip of my trigger finger. His hamd
twitched and my hand tightened around the stock of my shotgun.
He said, calmly, "Don't talk to..."
"Fuck you." A thousand contingencies flooded my mind all at once , a
picture show of violence and gore. Blood-spattered outcome after blood-spat-
tered outcome, the paramedic in desperate need of an ambulance, Sanda<jer
Canal carrying my blood out to Bayou Teche. He had a nine-millimeter. He lad
fifteen rounds in the clip and one in the chamber. He could draw and fire all of
his rounds and Swiss cheese my chest. By all accounts, he had the strateg c
advantage: the high ground. He stood above me on solid ground where he
could shoot all day and not lose his footing. With one leg in a pirogue and cne
leg sinking steadily into the porous mud of the canal bottom, one shot from my
gun would send me tumbling into an embarrassing, muddy and bullet^riddei
headline in tomorrow's paper.
I, on the other hand, had a shotgun: a lethal spread of me tal pellets
fired out in an explosion of gunpowder and plastic. It is a close-qi arters weap-
on, a defensive weapon, and I was on the defensive. He would he /e to draw,
aim, and shoot while all I had to do was rotate slightly and fire. Nc hesitation,
no aiming. If I could fire in his general direction the pellets would r< duce hj/ri to
ground meat. This motherfucker didn't stand a chance and when lis wife ano
daughter stand at his closed casket and weep into their veils, ther he would
know conclusively that you don't fuck with Adam Viator. \
"Fuck you!" His creativity knew no bounds. \
"What you going to do? Shoot me with your BB gun?" V
"Son this..." \
"Oh yeah. 'It's a nine millimeter, fifteen in the clip and one n the cham-
ber,'" I mocked. "Well I've got two in the clip and one in the cham >er. And, olfi,
it's a shotgun." I had rehearsed this and felt it came off rather well If one were
to fight off a stupid, contrived comment about a pistol one would need- a stu-
pider, more contrived retort to stay competitive. After all, I had the bigger gun.
I flicked the safety off. A ,
The paramedic's hand tightened on his nine-millimeter. I had time. He ^
would need to unfasten the snap on his holster, draw the weapon, point it at
me, pull the hammer back, aim and shoot. I just had to swing. Just swing and
pull the trigger. Swing. Trigger Boom
Dozens of tiny red spots appeared on the paramedic's chest. An explo-
sion of blood and cloth and synthetic down sprayed from his jacket. The pellets
tore through his clothes and skin, shredding fabrics and epidermis. The leaves
and branches and muddy water absorbed the report. The shotgun cried out its
death cry and was silent. The paramedic was silent. My friend John was silent.
All was silent.
I was outside my body, looking at the surreal scene before me. I saw
John's features twisted with fear and guilt, watching as the paramedic's life
oozed out of his chest. I saw the paramedic wordlessly gasping for comfort
or forgiveness or air. I saw his daughter, playing quietly, waiting for her father,
r breathless. I saw myself, changed, morphed, aged. Eyes deep and know
ing. Nonexistent muscles rippling. The hint of a beard on my jaw No remorse
existed in the eyes of this idealistic image: the warrior I've pictured myself so
many times being, an appalling corruption.
I flicked the safety on.
The paramedic drew and fired. The right side of my chest exploded.
Then the left. The third hit my arm, grazing past sucking blood in its path. I was
outside my body again, looking on as I tumbled into the canal. The paramedic,
eyes ablaze with a father's fury, kept his gun trained on me as I fall. He turned
the weapon on John and fired again. And again. ! saw John fali. I watched as
my body, floating upright, slowly sought the waters of the bayou. I saw the
blinking red lights of rescue and police vehicles, the paramedic being loaded
into a police car, the tragic irony of a paramedic with blood on his hands sinking
in. I saw my mother in panicked tears, my father's stoic pain.
"Look," I said, weary of the paramedic and displeased with the out-
come of my imaginative simulations. The latter situation I felt more likely and
more ih keeping with what little I'd seen of the paramedic's character. "I'm not
keen oh getting shot today."
\ "You should have thought about that before you shot at my family :
"You make it sound like I walked into your backyard and started firing
Be sidei," I said, defiance exchanged for defense, "there's no way anything
cc jld have gotten through those woods. This thing wouldn't even hurt a fly
aft ?r forty yards."
(Searching for validation for this fact I settled on another instance of my
" idvice. Always strategizing, he would spread us out to keep
\ group of doves would fly toward one of us and then, if (when,
nissed, the doves would turn and fly toward someone else. E
jr, ever/closer to one another than forty yards
n wasn't buying it so I lied. "And we weren't even shooting in that
ctigfi. We were over there, shooting in that... that direction." I pointed a
nmittal finger somewhere in the general direction that was not the para-
Then, against all expectation and laws of reality and physics set fort!"
by the action movie, the paramedic left anticlimactically. He didn't draw his
weapon, he didn't fire warning shots, and he didn't even make a speech. He
just came, threatened and confounded us with his circular logic. He sidled
up silently and left silently with a cryptic warning, "watch where you fire those /
. i • I* i
I couldn't tell if it was a threat or a fatherly word of advice. I had hearc
my father use that phrase countless times in concern for our safety. Those /
words, coming from the paramedic, panged of a violation. To use my fathers
words with an unspoken "or else" was the most offensive thing the paramedic
could have said to me. I reached for a response as he walked away but I was
too slow. I reached into the long buried memories for the appropriate emotional
response and drew from the only reliable source I knew: the action movie. He
may have won the battle but the war was far from over.
"Wait until my parent's hear about this," was my final threat, made to
the shrinking back of the paramedic as he walked away.
"He pulled a gun on you?"
"Well, not exactly. He threatened us though, said he would shoot us if
we shot at his house again."
"Sonny, do something." I
"I'll go talk to him."
When my father came back from the paramedic's house to fetch Jphn
and me so we could make our apologies, my murderous-commando-alter^ego
whimpered out of existence. My father had turned to the dark side, choor
off my commando's arm and threw him down a conveniently place
abandoned me to the altruistic mercy of the paramedic. > j
He explained that, as a paramedic, he would see these things all the
time where a careless teen with a shotgun would shoot his friend or himsfl
ifety and he was mere '
in the best interest of everyone involved. As the paramedic explained to my\fa
ther how he merelv overreacted when he heard the qunshots outsof the fethl
or John), the humiliatioi
was sealed forever. My
Standing outside the home of the owners of the field where we lad beenlhun
ng squirrels, my father goaded us to the door. An elderly couplaanswerep 01
"Hi, urn, we were hunting in your pasture..."
"Yeah, we see you two over here all the time."
"Well, we're supposed to apologize for doing that."
"We don't mind if y'all hunt over here."
"Someone does. He objected strongly with a nine-millijhetek"
"Some paramedic. Just moved into the neighborhood!' ,
"We've met hir
i aKimbria Williams
Dimples in a smile after a lover's chase
And the dance of feet to a heartbeat,
One feeling the air could misplace.
Slam of a shut door, crash from a broken plate
And cry from ;
One story the wind would tell too late.
A picture of a happy you and a happy me
Wrapped up in a broken frame,
If only one looked in the window they could see.
Everything we were, and now who we are,
From sunshine, to rain, to snow,
What started out small became large-
While I refused to look in the window.
Winds a The/Past
The Wind whipping all around^
On one Dark and Dreary Evening.
It picks up speed.
And then like a brick wall,
Was Never in vain.
I enjoyed every minute.
Best of Friends,
Through and Through
Til the end.
Like a wake up call,
The Wind snaps me back
I guess I'll be living mine
Just like you Yours.
The Wind whipping all around me
On one Dark and Magnificent Evening.
It picks up speed.
&ia ^ .
We live under /he carefully placed together shrapnel ol _broken
/ hearts and busted dreams.
/ You should see what we see.
/ Pain placed in glass cases held on top shelves,
/ kept dusted and polished.
/ / / Things nobody lets go of .
/ / Heart breaks and scars.
/ broken records and fountains of tears shed -
/ / They remind you that we all hurt.
/ / / And we all try to laugh it off .
/ / Every/one knows it's either laugh or cry.
/ / J In the end,
II I You're still touched.
I I Tainted.
We r/e unier the carefu/ pieced together shrapnel of broken
We we unuer jy ^^ ^ ^^ &emS .
/ YoJ can hear the/gritty resonance against stained walls.
/ Thire are voice/that echo forever in the recesses of our
I r I nuncio.
/ Voiis that somiimes gather enough volume to sting your
l vw.v>v, j e y es a g a | n
/ / Voices that won't let go.
In this r/ouse filled with black and blue peeling walls,
/ cracked windows and doors,
f\ I bare closets and cabinets,
/ / empty picture frames and book shelves. . .
/ / A cold house that cries and quivers
/ \ /when the wind blows and hits everything inside.
e live under the carefully pieced together shrapnel
of broken hearts and busted dreams
And there's no place like home.